Inbound Success Podcast Guest Appearance

Inbound Success Podcast

Dear brand, marketing, and growth-minded friends and colleagues, Bobby had the pleasure to sit down with Kathleen Booth on her podcast, Inbound Success. We go deep on marketing tactics, brand foundation, defining your company’s purpose, and core values. ⁠

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Kathleen: Welcome back to the inbound success podcast. I’m your host, Kathleen Booth. And my guest this week is Bobby Gillespie, who is the founder and principal at Propr Design. Welcome to the podcast, Bobby.

Bobby G: Thanks for having me.

Kathleen: Yeah. I’m excited to talk to you. And you’re my neighbor. I talk to people from all over the world on this podcast, and you happen to be right down the street in the Baltimore area. So that’s kind of exciting and novel for me. I don’t often get to speak to anyone who’s in the same town as me.

Bobby G: No, same here. And it’s pretty nice. You know, like we, I was telling people that I was gonna be on your show, and it was cool that we run in the same circles. So that’s,

Kathleen: Yeah

Bobby G: That’s, that’s a good thing.

Kathleen: Small world, six degrees, if they call it. So for those listening who are not from Baltimore, Baltimore has a nickname, which is Smalltimore, because it is kind of a small town disguised as a city. So here’s a classic, Smalltimore moment for all of you.

Bobby G: Indeed. We’ve been in the same place. I’m sure we probably met more than once and just don’t recall.

Kathleen: Exactly, exactly. So cool. Well, we’re, we’re fixing that now. Yeah. So let’s, let’s start by having you share a little bit about your background and what Propr Design is, and what you do.

Bobby G: Sure. So I started Propr in 2014. I have kind of a very adventurous career. I went to college originally as a science major; I still love science. I have a very balanced right and left brain, I guess where we really kind of dig in and, and take a scientific approach towards just, just resisting dogma and questioning everything consistently, but science was not my, I wasn’t enthusiastic enough about it to commit. In other words, chemistry prevented me from pursuing that, but I also didn’t really know that there was things like design, which is crazy to me now, but I had an epiphany during a spring break travel to Florida for a relaxing spring break, which is not typical. We stopped at SCAD down in Georgia, and I was like, what are, what is everybody here for? And all these different things. So I immediately changed direction, went to art school, went back and finished my bachelor’s, and got a degree in multimedia and web. And I started out my career as a web guy in the late nineties. And I’ve been in startups, I’ve worked in-house. And once I moved from Philly to Baltimore, I just worked at agencies to the point where I kind of capped out, and I found myself at a crossroads; where do I go now with my career? And 50% of me wanted to start my own business. 50% of me wanted to work somewhere else, and every day my, own starting my own agency, which just sort of started consuming all the other interests in doing it for somebody else.

So in 2014, I took the plunge and started Propr. So what is Propr? So, we position ourselves as brand strategy consultants first. We help our clients really identify who they are, what matters to them, who their customers are, and what matters to them. So we can make really authentic connections, just no gimmicks, no-nonsense, direct language, just real results that establish nice relationships. We do get into sort of the next phase, which is activating the brand. So doing all the things, creating the websites, creating the assets and tools and templates and collateral that our clients need to scale and grow their company in, in a self-sufficient manner. So unlike most agencies, correct me if I’m wrong here, but maybe all agencies, we measure success by our clients no longer needing us. So when they’re self-sufficient and empowered and have the courage and tools, they need to, you know, kind of bring it in-house or, or hire some folks that push buttons and pull levers, we’re successful. And we wish them well. If they had bigger goals, they’ll; they’ll come back to us. But you know, most of our clients kind of stick around for about 18 to 24 months to get that foundation to get activated and to be enabled, to run with it.

Kathleen: So I love that focus. I used to own an agency, and it is mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, it’s, it’s interesting because there’s that push-pull of, like, from an agency revenue, stability, and security standpoint, everybody loves those retainers that can go on and on and on and on, but in many senses, yeah. You’re building a dependency, and there is right. A lot to be said for having the brand be able to stand on its own, do the work by itself, et cetera. So I do like, your focus on foundation building and particularly brand foundation building. I think brand marketing, I feel like is undergoing a Renaissance at this time. You know, I, I feel like five years ago, people wasn’t talking about brand as much. It was very demand gen focused and mm-hmm, <affirmative>, what’s what I’ve seen happen at least. And this is just purely my own observation is that marketers have really woken up to the notion that a lot of the, you know, marketing strategies we’re using are they’re, it’s been, it’s become harder to differentiate. You know, marketers have gotten smarter companies have gotten smarter about how to go to market, and the tactics and the channels, that are out there. A lot of them are saturated. And so where there is the greatest area for differentiation is in brand, actually. And it’s also the area where I think most companies have underinvested. So mm-hmm, <affirmative>, we’re gonna talk about that how do you build a strong brand foundation. And so I guess I wanna start with, I always like to frame the question as when a new client comes to you and mm-hmm, <affirmative> they say they wanna embark upon this journey with you? How do you start? What are the first things that you really focus on to begin to frame those engagements with them?

Bobby G: Great question. So, you know, as a sort of why type person, like, why are we doing this? What’s the desired outcomes? You know, I’ve really focused on eliminating a lot of the challenges and trials and tribulations that have appeared, you know, as an agency person yourself. And a lot of our listeners are probably thinking like, oh, you know, where we get the client who says, I don’t like it. Or my, my, my nephew said that he could do better or, you know, all these different things that derail projects. So over the years, I just started pulling back the layers and taking the hot air balloon higher and higher and saying, what’s the origin of all this stuff? Like, how can we eliminate this in the future? Right? These are symptoms of something what’s causing this. So what I actually, the proto sort of brand clarity workshop is where we start it created, I, created that sort of proto version before I started Propr and was really to use the client’s words against them. <Laugh> when they say, I don’t like this, but I was like, well, you said this earlier in, in discovery, but really what we want to help our clients have the courage to ask is what’s best for the brand what’s best for our future customer.

And it takes a lot of guts to ask that, right, but it takes an immense amount of clarity to answer it. So that’s why we start there. And the brand clarity workshop is a step-by-step process where we start by identifying their core values. And, you know, like you said, like everything’s different now in terms of marketing, but when we start the core values, those are the non-negotiable aspects of your business, right? These are the things that you care about. And it’s not like saying, like, integrity is our core value, but how are these actionable? How can we hire and make decisions around what our core values are? So you gotta define ’em in a way that are practical and actionable. Right?

Kathleen: How do you tease that out, though? Because like, I, yeah, I feel like, so here, my take on core values is that too many companies create them by looking at the leaders or the leadership team and them saying, well, this is what we think it should be, but mm-hmm, <affirmative>, I actually believe that core values and culture both are, should be, and, and, and must be more organic. Like you really have to look at the company that you have and ask yourself, like, what are the values that we’re living by? So I’m just curious how you tease that out of people because I feel like there’s the aspirational values, and then there’s the, yeah. What are we really? What’s our DNA?

Bobby G: Well, that’s, I just said that, cuz it’s all aspirational. Right. So, you know, let’s, let’s take a step back and define brand. And if we’re <inaudible> foundation, well, what the heck is that, you know, a lot of folks are going to think that brand is sort of the expression, the identity, the colors to type the messaging. Right. That’s part of it. But what you’re really trying to focus on is, like, what’s the reputation we want? What’s the reputation we’re trying to earn, and that’s all aspirational, right? So your brand is your reputation; it’s the collection. And it’s the feeling that you’re leaving people with. It’s, it’s, it’s all those things. It, it’s how you act, how you talk to people, but it’s also sort of all those touch points that we’re using for marketing and sales and business dev and things like that. So how do we tease that out? Well, we just have a process that we’ve developed over the past decade, and we continue to, you know, improve it as we go along. And it’s really like, what can you commit to, like, would you know, give a crap about to where, like you won’t stand for anybody infringing on those values where you would, you know, almost go out in the street and fight for these things, right?

So it’s, it’s, it’s only three or four things that really matter. And they’re the same things that matter to your best employees. So I’ve had, you know, a lot of jobs that were, were terrible. I always loved what I do. Not always who I did it for or with, right? But I’ve learned a lot observing, like what makes this job crappy? And there are a million things that can make your job crappy, just like a million things that can make your brand not successful, but there are only a few things you need that are in place to make it something that’s really fulfilling for you, your people, your customers, right. And those start with your values, and those have to align with your purpose. So your purpose as a business doesn’t necessarily have to be just; it shouldn’t be just transactional, right? Make money, right? That’s no purpose that’s business, but you know, what’s the impact you’re trying to have like beyond business like for us, it’s that empowerment. It’s that constant improvement. It’s respect, right? Those are the things its autonomy support. Those are the things that attract my team to Propr. And those are the things that I look for in our customers. Do they give a crap about this stuff to? They don’t have to give a crap about it as hard as we do; they have to care about it. Right. And if they care about it, then we’re going to be aligned. We’re going to have synergy. We’re going to be, be able to develop a relationship because we care about the same stuff.

So it’s sharing your purpose, right? And, when you lead with your purpose, you have a better chance to use your words. Inbound is attracting the right people. Right. I love that. I haven’t forgotten it since I first heard it from you. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to attract the right people. And when you do that, there’s no sales; there’s no convincing, there’s no influencing. It’s like here; this is what we care about. This is what we do or provide or sell. And if, if this is right for you, these people are going to take action.

Kathleen: So let’s break down this notion of purpose cuz it sounds like you have two parts in this. Well, at least two parts in this workshop. One is the values. What are the things that you’re gonna take just to the streets and fight for? And then there’s what is your purpose as a company? And I’ve, I’ve, it’s interesting cuz I’ve done some workshops around this before, and I would not claim to have a great process for it. It’s just the process I developed and have used. Sure. And, so, I’m personally interested in how you navigate the conversation around the purpose also. And, and because I think at least in my experience, when I talk about purpose with executive teams, they tend to be very kind of like immersed in the present day, and it’s, it can be challenging to get them to take that step back and really think bigger and more long term mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so, any thoughts on how to tease that out of people?

Bobby G: All right. So one step back. So brand clarity is,, that foundation is built from your core values, your core message, which is made up of why you do what you do, your purpose and then, what you do for whom, and then your personality, right? That, and all those pieces together, put the parameters around your brand. So when we’re doing creative expression and marketing and all that good stuff, then you know, we, we are able to be innovative in that space versus pulling from the infinite and hoping, you know, we’re getting lucky here, so,

Kathleen: Okay. So we start, we talked about

Bobby G: That allows creativity too.

Kathleen: Yeah. So we talked about core values, and now we’re gonna talk about the second, at least the second, one in order for me, which is purpose. And then you mentioned, I think, five things. So maybe we’ll go through each of those five. Okay, sure. So let’s, let’s talk about purpose for a second now.

Bobby G: So it’s it, really, what fulfills you, right? Why do you do this every day? Why do you get up? Why do you come to work? You know, a lot of times when we’re dealing with the C-suite, these guys are successful people, and they, they can do it or not. Right. So,, what drives their passion? There was a book I read a couple of years ago. I can’t remember the name of it, but he talked about passion being a result, and it starts with enthusiasm, and deep practice. Like-Minded people in your village and time and over time, I’m very careful using passion because, you know, people say I’m passionate about the NFL. Like you can’t be, you’re just a spectator. Right. But you’re passionate about playing drums, right? Like you’ve probably been practicing for 20 years. Like that’s released your passion, expertise, releases, passion. Right. They, they, they kind, they, they kind of grow together. So when we talk to our clients, like yeah, beyond making money, right? The impact, the desire, your legacy, all these things you’re trying to create in the sort of, not it consciously, like it, it aligns with your purpose. Right. And, like what, what makes you excited? What makes you, you know, at the end of the day, when you’re, when you’re a customer or your client achieves something, what are they achieving, and how does that make you feel? Right. And that’s your enthusiasm, your passion around your purpose. So how do we get it out of them? It’s it?

Sometimes we talk about the workshop as, you know, brand therapy or corporate therapy because, you know, it’s a deep dive; we pull it all back. Right. And we, we, we push our clients. And you know, when you think about your purpose, right? You know, for us, we’ve been able to identify because I’m so animated, and I get so excited about this stuff. It’s when our clients have that breakthrough, when they’re like, yes, this is what we’re all about. And then, like that, enthusiasm is infectious throughout their entire company. And then we, we harness that energy and focus it out on their target customers who are passionate or enthusiastic about the same stuff. Right. Who wants that same energy? Wanna feel that. So, that really gets them motivated to let go. And just like, we want our clients to really connect, communicate, and compete, even on their values and purpose. We do the same. So customers that are very reluctant to get into that conversation won’t even let me in the room, which is fine because we’re not trying to convince anybody of anything, but if they feel that this is something that’s gonna benefit them and their company, and even let them sleep better, then they’re going to they’re. They’re like; we want that. Like, we want to go through that. We need that. That’s what’s missing. And most of our clients that go through that exercise come out the other end and saying, how did we, how are we successful the past 15 years at a 15 million firm without this? I’m like; I don’t know. Yeah, exactly. But it’s gonna be <laugh>, you know, and we have a saying for that, is that you know, many, many businesses out there are successful despite their best efforts.

Kathleen: Yeah. I’ve, I’ve said, something similar is so true.

Bobby G: Pulling that together really leads to them being empowered and having, you know, unleashing that vision. Cause, you know, the pain is something that’s constant. Right. Someone said that and you know, a lot of times our clients are like, we had the wrong messaging, or our website isn’t right. These, these, these like symptoms. Right. And that, like, what’s the cause of these symptoms, like redoing your website, isn’t gonna alleviate that problem. It might make it feel better for a little while, but it’s going that, that pain’s coming back. So let’s start at the beginning, make sure that we all are on the same page about, like, what’s right here. What’s right? In terms of resource allocation towards their activation, what’s right? In terms of messaging and aesthetics. But also, you know, we have a, we have a saying every year we have a mantra, and I think 20, 20 or 2021 maybe COVID influence was we can’t predict the future, but we must commit to thinking about it. And we talk about that at all the time because, you know, there are issues around, you know, good messaging around really clarifying and concise, actionable values and purpose, hiring the right people, putting in the right seat, you know, leading it’s like, okay, this pain is going away, but what’s next. Right.

Let’s think about that. What’s coming next while we’re working on the current and that the workshop is able to break down what, you know, you know, we’re all like, we’re all super close to stuff. Right. But it helps them see beyond that and see the future. Right. And we want to, we wanna talk about our front, like what success looks like, like what’s, what’s a great future state that we’re working towards. And that’s how you know the workshop is able to bridge that gap between business goals and brand. Right. So how, how we’re able to pull those things together and say, all right, this stuff is working in tandem. No more silos. All parts of this company are working in the same direction. We’re all clear on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and who we’re doing it for. Right. And that just helps you identify things that maybe even need to be revised or redirected or removed. And that ensures that you’re, you’re having a more pure company working towards the same goal.

Kathleen: Yeah. Yeah. I wanna go back to something you said earlier, which was that the workshop is like therapy, and it’s interesting because when I have done this in the past, I tend to do it if I’m, if when I’ve just come into a company. So I’m still a little bit like an outsider. Because I do find that leadership teams can easily fall into the pattern of kind of self-reinforcing messaging, right? Like, oh, this is our mission, you know? And, everybody’s like, yep, that’s the mission. That’s what it’s been. And, a lot of times, those missions or purposes or whatever lack heart, and they lack soul. Right. Yeah. And what I found is really helpful is to come in as a relative outsider again, or a new hire, what have you. And when, when they answer the question, cuz I’ve asked that same question, what gets you so excited to get up and come into work every day? Right? Like why do you do this job when you could work anywhere? Cause they’re no matter where you work, there’s always someplace else. You could work where you make more money. Right. Right. Unless you are Bill Gates or Elon Musk, I guess.

Bobby G: Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>.

Kathleen: And so it’s like, so what really makes you charged up to come into work every day? Right. And usually, the first few answers are not the real answer. And, and I find that what you have to keep doing is saying, so what, like you’ll get answers like, oh, I’m excited to come in because you know, we’re gonna, the people we’re gonna get more data to our customers. And it’s like, well, so what, who cares about that? You know? Yeah. And you have to keep asking. So what until you really get to the deeper, the real answer, which is usually three to five answers in, in my experience,

Bobby G: I call those, you know, I, I, most of my career, I’ve been a designer and more now. I don’t push many pixels these days, but I push our clients, and you know, whatever process you’re going through, we call those early ideas as early concepts, as early answers, the cork and the wine bottle, those answers are necessary. They’re important, but the quicker you get them out of the way, the faster the goodness can flow. So, you know, respect that process. Right. And, and, you know, I, I kudos to you for, for pushing hard, right? Why? And a lot of their early answers are going to be the same thing that, you know, we see all the time it’s, it’s, you know, its services or features or ingredients. And when you’re competing on that, you’ve, you’re commoditizing your brand because everyone else can offer the same thing. Probably cheaper.

Kathleen: Yeah. Or is, I can’t remember if you said the famous quote, like if you build the world’s tallest ladder, it’s very easy for somebody else to just add a few more rungs onto theirs. Yeah. And you know, all of a sudden you’re no longer the world’s tallest ladder.

Bobby G: Yeah. Right. So, so, so don’t commoditize yourself, right. Because people just want the most for less, but when, you know, you can really position your brand as unique. There’s a, I read a book, a client recommended a wait a client a couple years ago that gave me basically a reading list. He said, read all these books. So you know what we’re all about? And I’m like, okay, <laugh> then we went through the workshop and it was, it was great. I love reading anyway. But there’s a guy, an investor named Naval Ravikant and he’s got all these brilliant one liners that he put on Twitter and someone wrote a book about it. And the one that really that I love is you know, when you are your authentic self, you have no competition because no one can compete with you on being you. And we really push that to our, our clients, you know, authenticity get rid of the BS, no, no nonsense, like, keep it real, be yourself own that, you know, that’s something that I’ve seen firsthand throughout my entire life. Like being myself is something that has allowed me to, to kind of become who, you know, modest and humble, but like, you know, I, I, I run a company, right. So like, it’s, it’s all about me being myself.

And, when you do that, it comes back to, you know, just having clarity on those things and getting rid of the, the fluff, the flowery language. And we’re seeing more of that, like you said, and I wanna see more of that. You know, like, but the flip side of it is not, not, not to, not to talk bad about our PR friends, but a lot of these companies have massive PR budgets because they’re constantly dealing with damaging information. That’s true. So they spend immense amount of resources, you know, changing your mind or redirecting you and saying, don’t look at that, look at this. Right. And why not just own your positioning own what you do stop, like destroying the world for growth and, you know, just make authentic connections based on what you’re trying to accomplish and be less transactional?

Kathleen: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Okay. So we’ve talked about core values. We’ve talked about purpose, and then I think you mentioned another element who are you doing it for?

Bobby G: Oh, who, right. Yep.

Kathleen (27:15): And so is that really, I mean, obviously everybody who listens to this podcast is a marketer, is that really the classic process of defining your audience persona or your ideal customer profile, as some people call it,

Bobby G: Your ICP. So, so personalities and other pieces in there, but, but then, then who, right? So yes, but do not look at that as gospel, right? So those are the components that right now, today is what we’re focused on. Right. Because all of our marketing friends know that marketing is an infinite game, but it’s played with finite resources. So how do we get the most outta what we got? Right. Simon Sinek, you know the infinite game is about just choosing how you play the game and continuing to stay in the game. And I really like that it really lines with what we’re trying to do. It’s like, don’t focus on. Sure. Wins are important, but it’s more like March madness, right? Celebrate that win, but keep moving. So coming back to the gospel thing, your core values are the only thing that won’t change. Whether you start a new company while you sell your company, right? You retire. Those are the things that, you know, really should be ingrained in the culture, ingrained in how people perceive you, how you’re messaging with people, how that message is received, but your, your, your purpose may evolve your message, your personality, even your target audience. Maybe, I did; I did some research a few years ago when COVID started. And I was researching how brands weathered recessions because there’s really no, no information on how it weathers pandemics because it, you know, doesn’t happen every day. I hope not. But I came to two brands, sorry, two brands. And I wrote a; I wrote an article about this there’s Polaroid, right? We know Polaroid gen Xer here. Like I had a, you know, we had Polaroids around, you know, in informatic camera.

Yeah. And, you know, I, I forget the years, but essentially it was around 1990 that digital already existed. But it was really expensive. It was, it was, it wasn’t market ready yet for the mass market. But Polaroids looked at; they were worth about 2 billion at the time. They looked at their brand as a product. So instead of pivoting around, you know, what their core was, what they’re good at, their purpose, their mission, their values, what they did was just continue to try to push a product. So fast forward ten years later, they declare bankruptcy for the second time in that 10-year span. And they liquidated all their assets. So essentially, they went outta business, and they were, you know, Fuji bought all their stuff. Then there’s another brand Nokia, right? Our first cell phone. But Nokia has been around for over a hundred years. They did mining communication and technology in the UK back in the day. They’re still around the day instead of trying to compete with Apple and, and Samsung and all that on products, you know, touch, screen stuff. They pivot it, and they’ve pivoted as they need to over the decade, right? Are the decades right around their values, around their purpose, around what they’re uncommonly good at? So today, there’s still a multi-billion dollar company, but what they create is not the devices but the infrastructure that makes our devices work. So they’re doing telecom infrastructure. And so it’s still the same at the core, but they are allowed, they’ve allowed themselves to pivot around that instead of focusing and doubling down on this is, nothing’s nothing is negotiable. This is what we do. This is all we do. And, you know, and then go down with the ship.

Kathleen: Yeah. Those are great stories. I loved, I love hearing those kinds of stories about how different companies, whether, you know, the changing times you, skipped over one thing that you have as part of your workshop and it, and I’m fascinated by this one, which is personality. And so I wanna go back to that, and is this brand personality?

Bobby G: Yeah. So this is hard for people to, I ha you have to repeat, you know, I facilitate our workshops, I run them with my team, but you know, they’re like my personality or, you know, what, what personality, and I’m like the company’s personality. So we, the, the exercise is a lot like, you know, selecting from a pool of terms that we can start narrowing things down, asking if the brand is, you know, a city slicker or nature boy, or, you know, male or female, nothing like all these things that people feel in their gut about what their brand should be. And you know, we have something that our listeners can do with their teams is, you know, select a famous person that would rep the brand, right? Not as your spokesperson, but when you think about your brand and your message and your values, and who would kind of best personify that, it makes it way more approachable and really fun. Some, for example, <laugh>, we worked with a consumer product a couple of years ago, and his was Rocky Balboa. Right.

Which really kind of resonates with me; being a Philly OG, Philly grew up there. And but for us as Anthony Bourdain and, you know, he’s just a he was, you know, a recipe like the great guy he amazing chef. Right. Great entrepreneur. But it was so much more than that. It was about the relationships, the experience, the story, good food and drink stuff that we all appreciate here. Right. So when we’re thinking about writing in the brand’s voice or designing things that should feel us, we look to the personification and also the imperfection, the vulnerability, you know, like that’s all okay too. It reminds us that we’re all human. Yeah. And it’s not just the best traits; it’s all the traits. Right. And his eloquence; I was reading something he wrote the other day. And it’s just like, how beautiful is this? And he was writing, and there was a reflection of him too. He’s like; this is everything that’s great about America and everything. That’s wrong about America in one place. And I’m like, that is so brilliant to me. And we aspire to, to, you know, honestly not, we will never be that brilliant, but we aspire to, to have the same kind of authenticity and realism in what we’re creating.

Kathleen: I love that. That’s what you do. It’s so funny. I’ve done the same thing. If your brand were a celebrity mm-hmm <affirmative>, who would it be? And so fun stories. You, you said you were Anthony Bourdain. So I’ve worked for a couple of different companies where I’ve done. This one was a cybersecurity company. And the brand was we picked Idris Elba because Idris Elba was at the time being talked about as the next James Bond. But he was an Oscar-nominated actor who was also an, I think, an MMA fighter on the side and DJ. And we were like most interesting man in the world. Right. Like, yeah. Very, very fascinating. And so he was like a triple threat, and then I had another company.

Bobby G: Oh, I mean, and super handsome. Right. So,

Kathleen: Oh, exactly, exactly. <Inaudible> et cetera. Yeah. And then we had another company that was also in cybersecurity that made hardware. It was a small product, but that had a massive impact. Right. Like mm-hmm, <affirmative> used by very big organizations. And so our brand archetype was a man because aunt man saved the Marvel universe. Right. And he’s this tiny character. And, and so like, that was another one. And then I think the third one was another company where we had Hugh Jackman, cuz again, an award-winning actor, but who’s very self-effacing and also does Broadway plays and isn’t afraid to sing and dance. And we kind of had, I don’t know if you ever saw the video he did, which was for it was like for a boot company that he was the spokesman for. And anyway, I think so hysterically, and he has this whole repartee with Ryan Reynolds.  So like, okay. I love that framework so much because it’s so much easier. Like when I tell those stories, you know, instantly, just as in your case with Anthony Bourdain instantly the listener can conjure a picture in their brain. Yes. It’s a very nuanced picture of what that means. And so huge. Like plus one for that approach that you’re taking, because I it’s, it not only is it helpful for like a leadership team, but it’s a great way to roll something out to the company and say, like, when you’re writing emails when you’re interacting with customers, when you’re posting on a social media channel, this archetype, this personality, and like, you know, in my case it was like, what would interest do or <laugh> what would Anthony Bourdain do? Right, right. It, it’s a great filter through which to figure out if what you’re doing is on brand or not.

Bobby G: It makes it approachable, it; close your eyes and see it. Right. And like that, that’s the practicality of it. A lot, lot of brands, you know, exercises where you’re creating this brand strategy and messaging maps and all this stuff like it’s not practical. How can every employee kind of get this? And, and, but it also, you know, brand is reputation. Everyone’s going to, you know, some people may think Anthony Bourdain was the worst, and that’s okay. Right. Yeah. Cause you’re; you’re going, everyone has gonna have a different perception of your brand. Right. So you just wanna make sure that it’s pretty clean and clear what you’re all about and not for everybody, which is a good thing.

Kathleen: Yeah. Well, I wanna, I wanna kind of shift a little bit because I, I do, like, you just sort of said it like a lot of people can, they hear brand, and they think it’s very woo woo. And marketers love things that are measurable, and that can be hard with this stuff. And so I wanna talk for a minute about impact and mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you’ve done this exercise with a variety of different companies and, and in some cases, I’m sure you’re not gonna have like concretely measurable impact directly from building this brand foundation, but can you just talk a little bit about, about how you do think about impact and, and the stories that you’ve seen play out with the companies that you’ve worked with?

Bobby G: I used to say that, you know, we’re all about the results, but then you know, constantly thinking about that, where we get clients that aren’t the right fit, can’t get any results out of that. So I realize that, you know, results in relationships are, are, are, are, are linked. And the only way you’re going to get that relationship is by delivering value and results. So, you know, really focusing on making sure that we’re working with the right people is going to ensure that we’re successful for them. And then we can develop a relationship through that, through those results, through that impact, through that benefit, through that value that we’re driving. So, you know, I wanna know what the vision is for the company. I wanna know what the goals are for revenue and sales. Like, do you need to? Majority of our clients are B2B tech, so what’s success here, guys? One sale in the year. Yeah. Okay, great. You know, and they have a super complicated business. They’re PhDs or, you know, scientists or engineers. So they that they can’t market anything. Right. So they need us, but I, you know, or, or it’s a consumer product and, you know, we need to sell more direct to consumer less through Amazon. Okay. Right.

So what we’re thinking about those desired outcomes while we’re putting together our strategy that goes from clarity to activation. And for example, we are working on, you know, I, I look at the first, Propr is gonna be eight this year. I look at the first five years as R and D, and our last client in our R and D phase was a big data analytics company. And I sat down with, with the managing director, and we grabbed beers, and he’s like, these are our goals. We have new goals. We want to be acquired. We wanna obviously increase revenue, but we, we wanna track the right people to our company. We’re struggling with that. So we went through the workshop, and we got, we barely got into activation, you know, designing new stuff, updating their website, and doing all that good stuff. But they were able to reduce their sales cycle from 12 months to eight weeks. Oh, wow. That’s huge. It’s huge doubled revenue. Yeah. Before mill. Right? So they instantly tripled our retainer <laugh>, but one of, one of the, their prospects, it was all fortune 2000 companies. One of their prospects that they were talking to it accelerated because they’re able to talk about themselves and convey their purpose and value to this, you know, international multi-billion dollar company, our company, cuz concisely, they could speak to what, where they help, why they help, why it’s different, how they can accelerate their stuff and all that good stuff. So that company ended up acquiring them six months after the workshop. Right. They had a three-year goal of being acquired. So they doubled revenue, and they got acquired in six months. Wow. Now, you know, a hell of a story. Right. But we lost our biggest client.

Kathleen: <Laugh> they graduated. Oh, that’s what I used to say. When I’m on my agency, we didn’t lose them. They graduated, and now they’re an alumni.

Bobby G: We lost the money. <Laugh>.

Kathleen: Yes, exactly.

Bobby G: So, but, but it’s one of those things I remember when it happened; it was really surreal. And I went to the Addies right around then. That was right before COVID in 2020. And I was talking to like my peers and stuff, and I’m like, has this ever happened to anybody? Like, what do you do? Like where you help your clients so well that, you know, but that’s when we started thinking about when they no longer need us is when we’re successful.

Kathleen: Yeah. It’s like parents.

Bobby G: We want more

Kathleen: Of that. It’s like parenting, you want your kids to go out into the world, and it’s horrible and sad. And like you miss them. But at the same time, it’s amazing. Right. Like, okay, they’ve flown the coop. They’ve launched. They’re they’re good. <Laugh> so I don’t know. I feel the same way. <Laugh> it’s just from many years of

Bobby G: Work. I, I just like, in my mind, it’s just kicking a bird out of, you know, the mama bird kicking the baby bird outta the nest, get out. Yeah.

Kathleen: Spread wings. Exactly. Exactly. Go fly, little bird. Yeah. Cool. All right. Well, well, shifting over to my questions that I always ask all of my guests at the end cuz I wanna get these in before we have to wrap up. The first is a lot of the marketers I talk to just say it’s really hard to keep up with everything in the world of digital marketing. Its stuff changes so quickly. So how do you personally stay up-to-date and educated?

Bobby G: Great question. And it really comes down to just the mindset we already have is that we just resist dogma. Right. And you know, like, this is the way this is, you know, this is how marketing is done in, in, you know, 20, 15 and 2020. And what, what, the way we look at it is like the formula is back to my science background. There are formulas that work, but you have to identify the variables before you can apply them to the different formulas. So it’s never just one tactic is going to unleash your potential. There are all these different things. So we’re constantly exploring that stuff. I’m in like three; I think at the time, peer group one is a coaching mentor group. It’s a bunch of entrepreneurs. I’m in a re-like networking referral group with peers and contemporaries. So we’re sharing ideas all the time. We’re talking about different tactics and different stuff, but we’re fully immersed in what our clients are doing. So I’m writing, and I’m talking about this stuff, you know, I’ve, I’ve substituted Photoshop for Grammarly, and I write constantly, so I’m, but you can’t just, you know, I’m not writing fiction. So as Dewey said, you gotta feed it. Right. So I’m, you know, all these books I have on my, my desk like it’s feeding my mind so that I can put it through and then start sort of molding into something that we can try and see if it works. Right. And when we take a more iterative approach, you know, like using MVP type processes like minimal viable products, you know, we take the same approach to where, you know, we come up, we do our due diligence. We hypothesize, we run it, we evaluate it and assess it and pivot double down, pull it, whatever, almost at a monthly sprint basis. Right. So we’re always trying new stuff, but it’s really, you know, I listen to podcasts as well. And, you know, I’m big on that open source, you know, a culture where people like us are sharing our great ideas without fear because we’re contributing to the greater good we’re, we’re, we’re contributing to our peers, we’re contributing to the market to improve everybody. So it was a lot of that stuff, just, just being like living in it, right in that churn. But you know, taking practical approaches where we’re taking interesting ideas, applying them in a different way and assessing the outcomes and, and kind of just improving every step of the way.

Kathleen: Awesome. And how about brands that are doing it well? So you talked earlier about how, when you and I spoke, I defined inbound as anything that naturally attracts the right customer to your business. Are there particular brands or even individuals that you think are really setting the bar for what it means to be a great inbound marketer today?

Bobby G: Are there, there, there are so many people that I have in my village that I think embody just authenticity and point of view, and be damned if it offends anybody. And I kind of wanna lead by example like that too, but there’s a brand that I’m absolutely a huge fan. There are a few, but there’s a clothing brand out of, and this is not our client. I am their customer. <Laugh>, there’s a clothing brand called Taylor Stitch out of Cali. I think they’re in San Fran, and I’m pretty much head-to-toe every day in all their clothes. There’s just a pretty clean message that it’s, you know, good clothes that, that the quality controller, they, I know what my sizes are. They fit every time. And they’re constantly spinning up new stuff, and the way they do it, it’s very sustainable. It’s transparent. If anything’s ever gone wrong, they’ve done their best to make it right. And you know, it, it, they just wanna make nice clothes and get ’em on people. And they do things where they’ll take your clothes back and give you credit; they’ll, you know, fix ’em and resell them at a discount, like jeans that take a year to break in. You could send them back, and someone can buy broken in jeans. But it’s just like, there’s just an honesty about it that really appeals to me, and they do their best to be sustainable. And, really, they just keep it real, right? Like, I don’t, I don’t think like they would be a client for us just cuz of the industry they’re in, but I admire what they’re doing. They’re sticking with their purpose. They’re sticking with what’s important to them, and they make it clear to their customers, and I’ve been buying their crap for like six years now. Right.

Kathleen: Whatever they’re doing, it’s a lot of my money. Right.

Bobby G: It’s working.

Kathleen: <Laugh> cool. I love hearing about examples like that, that I’m not familiar with. So that’s, that’s a good one. Alright, well, we’re coming to the end of our time. So if somebody wants to learn more or has a question for you or wants to check out Propr, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Bobby G: Sure. They can obviously come check out our website to see what we’re all about. It’s

Kathleen: It’s PROPR

Bobby G: PROPR no E right. Cause everything’s taken. So we gotta get creative around Propr. So I made a little page for today, or we can come check me out on LinkedIn. It’s just “thatbobbyg”. And just drop me note and say that you heard us here and I love the catch-up.

Kathleen: All right. Awesome. As always, I’ll put all those links in the show notes, which are available at And if you loved this episode, I would love it if you would head to apple podcast and leave it a review; that’s how other folks find us. And finally, if you know somebody else who’s doing great marketing work, feel free to tweet me at @KathleenlBooth on Twitter, and I would love to make them my next guest. That’s it for this week. Thank you, Bobby. Bobby G, for joining me.

Bobby G: Thank you very much.

Bobby Gillespie


With 24 years of creative experience in leadership, planning, and executing performance-based branding and web design strategies, Propr and I help small and medium-sized companies and organizations grow revenue, attract new customers, manage and scale their brands, and improve marketing performance.

I’m also the author of Build Your Brand Like You Give a Shit.
Connect and follow me on LinkedIn.

Schedule a call to learn how we can help you transform your brand for consistent and better performance.

About Propr

Propr Branding and Web Design Best of Maryland Awards

Propr is a boutique brand strategy and creative agency. We help companies and organizations grow through high-performing brand strategy, graphic & identity design, messaging & custom WordPress website design & development. Performance and results drive our passion for service. Let’s do great things for your brand together.

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On Brand Podcast Guest Appearance

By: Bobby G    08/2022

On Brand Podcast Guest Appearance

By: Bobby G


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